Vienna Calling, Day 2

I awoke early, whiich is pretty much traditional for these types of holiday. I think it was about 7AM, which gave me enough time to have a shower, and begin to explore the streets. It became apparent that we were in a pretty suburban area of Vienna. I found this out as I went around looking for a shop that sold toiletries. There was a chemist open. I grabbed what I needed and headed off to the counter. I handed the woman a €10 note. She blurted something in German, I shrugged my shoulders, as if to say “Englisch”? She points to the display on the till. Turns out she was asking if I had the right change.

Of course, I didn’t, as it had all accidentally fallen into the vending machine outside of my hotel room the night before.

“Ah, nein”, I reply, in the best Hartlepudlian accent money can buy. I grabbed a carrier bag, almost completely destroying a nearby display. I pretty much ran out of the shop with my tail between my legs…

OK, that was one shop down. Won’t be going back there. Luckily enough, after wandering around for 5 minutes, I found a Spar. they have them in England. This will do for me.

After stocking up on important items, such as water and coke (the fizzy kind) I headed back to the hotel in almost completely the wrong direction, to the point where I had to turn back on myself and make sure I didn’t get lost.

One thing I did find, and was considered an absolute essential until I actually tried them, were… Paprika Pom-Bears…

Surprisingly, and rather upsettingly, I found them a total disappointment. At €1.49 for, admittedly, a rather large bag, the paprika flavour just wasn’t there as abundantly as I’d liked. Paprika pringles still win in this category, I’m afraid.

Something I did notice over there, and found it pretty interesting, is that the pedestrian crossings all make a certain mechanical ticking sound, rather like a grandfather clock. This speeds up when the “green man” is illuminated. On the way back, I bumped into C+J who were up earlyish, for the first time in the entire trip. I dropped my stuff off at the hotel, and I directed them to the Spar. We then went to a nearby bakery (amusingly named “Anker” – well, amusing to us anyway. Apparently, it’s a chain store of bakeries, rather like Greggs over here.)

One thing we sorted on this full first day, and I’m glad we did, was the transport. Vienna has a decent network of underground trains, trams and buses, and all for €14 for a weeks travel. Please note, however, that the ticket is only valid for that week. It ends on Sunday night, no matter what day you buy your ticket. Buy it on Monday, 7 days travel. Buy it on Sunday, 1 day travel.

One thing they’re very “big” on in Vienna is street art. Some people call it graffiti, some call it vandalism. If you look behind the obvious “tagging”, there’s some fantastic pieces out there.

At the end of the road the hotel was on, was this beauty, which made me laugh every time I saw it…


We made use of the train tickets, and travelled to Stephansplatz. At this point, the sun was cracking the pavements. Thunderstorms were promised later on in the day, but I couldn’t see it coming, as my body started to dessicate because of the heat. I literally thought my scalp was going to have to be ripped off. It turned out to be some possible reaction with the shower gel / shampoo the hotel had provided me with, as I avoided using this, and I was OK for the rest of the trip.

We walked around and found a place that might have been reasonable. It was on a barge-type of thing. I paid €4.75 for a bottle of water. Strange things happen to your wallet when you’re dehydrated. We headed back up to Stephansplatz to have a look around the shops. this was sort of like the expensive part of London. Shops had watches in the window with 5 figure price tags next to them. Unfortunately, the water had pretty much broke my bank account, so a watch of that price would have to wait for another day.

As promised, the rain moved in a short time later, and the distant rumble of thunder made us, and pretty much everyone else head for the underground and, for us, back to the hotel. I ended up going to bed for a couple of hours, as the heat took it out of me. I’ll say one thing about the beds, they were comfy. I think it consisted of one of those foam mattresses. I tried to show just how comfy they were by doing an action shot of me jumping on one. Unfortunately, it looks more like my belt has an erection. Oh dear.


Eventually, I awoke, and we played pool on the free table for a short while, before heading out onto the town. One thing we struggled with when it came to finding somewhere to eat was the language. No place had an English menu outside. Chris fancied some noodles. Actually, I did too. Now, Vienna has a permanent market situated on ‘Weiner Strasse” (I don’t know how to get one of those funny double-S things), whjich after wandering around aimlessly for a mile, seemed a good place to check out. We’d learned that a place called “Mr. Lee” did noodles at reasonable prices. We ordered them to take out, but were directed to a table until they were ready, and were provided with a bowl of what can only be described as coconut milk and frogspawn. Jonathan reckoned it was semolina, either way, it was slimy and not something I’d personally order. But it was free, and gave us something to discuss while the noodles arrived.

It was a mile back to the hotel, so me and Chris attempted to eat ours, while Jonathan kept his in the bag. Now, at this point, I’ve never felt so much like a tourist in all of my life. I’m walking down a street I’ve never seem before, eating noodles from a plastic tray, with unknown additional ingredients (green stuff, I think they’re called… vegetables?), while using chopsticks… in the end I just held the tray to my mouth and just pushed the contents in with the chopsticks.

After going back to the hotel for an hour, we headed off to find a bar, and happened to find an “Irish” bar. Nothing was irish about it. Literally, nothing. I purchased 3 bottles of something known as “Gosser”. It was cold, alcoholic and at €3.30, for a 500ml bottle, reasonably priced. It turns out it was more of a sports bar

So, after three bottles of that, we headed off back to the hotel. I watched something about cutting people open on BBC World, and promptly fell asleep… I knew I’d be awake early for day three.

Paris, Day 2

No sooner had Day 1 ended, than Day 2 began. Now this, of course means, unfortunately that I didn’t get much sleep. This was mainly because of the afore mentioned factors in Day 1 about everything being too hot. This was something I’d obviously have to get used to.

I awoke at 7. C+J were obviously still going to be asleep, so I took a bit of a walk without them. They wouldn’t be up for hours. I think we made tentative arrangements to get up early, but not THAT early.

I donned my clothes and headed off, camcorder in hand, to the Eiffel Tower. This is the first time I’ve mentioned the camcorder in this trip. Yes, I did indeed take it with me, but thanks to my hard drive being a bit of a nuisance at the minute, I’ll not be able to work my way through the tape until I attempt to format my storage hard drive. That’s something I’ll leave for now, however.

Anyway. the time is 7:30 AM by the time I have a shit, shave and shower. I head off outside the hotel, and in the general direction of the tower. It seemed eerily quiet. I really didn’t expect it to be like this. In fact, I think I only saw a handful of people on my entire journey.

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Unbelievably, one of those people was one of those stupid sodding crap-keyring sellers. Aaaaaargh. Is there no time of the day safe from them? Clearly not.

Thankfully, he was the only one I saw, but still!

I continued my journey, and headed along the bridge across the Seine. It looked like a nice walk.

Interestingly (or rather erm… not really very interestingly), their road sweepers use a lot more water than ours. Instead of a shitty little drizzle in front of the brushes, this thing splurts out a great big gush of water across the entire pavement.

The walk continued, and I continued taking photos and filming, as you can imagine I would. This was easier said than done, as there seemed to be hoardes of joggers out in the early morning.

I continued the walk as it was still early, and went along to the impressive structure known as Hotel Invalides. Little did I know that this was the way we’d came originally, and I’d totally missed it on the way there. Mainly because all I cared about was getting to the hotel.

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I didn’t know much about the bouilding at this point, so I took a few photos, and headed back to the hotel.

I awoke Chris and Jonathan, and we headed out onto the Parisienne streets. I can’t for the life of me remember if we had breakfast on this particular morning. I think it was more likely that we picked up something from The Shoppy.

The shoppy (actually spelled Shopi) is a chain of supermarkets throughout France (by the looks of it), and the prices are perfectly acceptable. Now, we actually discovered this wonderful little supermarché on Day 1, but I didn’t mention it. In all, I think I spent something like €22 in there just on the first day.

Anyway, off we went to the shoppy, and bought what we needed, and headed off in the general direction of Le Tour Eiffel.

The first question of the day was how we were going to see the sights of the city. We initially thought that most of the attractions were a distance from each other, so, after consulting a map, it was agreed that we would get a pass for one of the river cruisers. Seemed expensive, but we got a 5-day pass, which cost €16. It looked as if this was the best way to see the sights.

Indeed, it was great to see the famous landmarks from the comfort of a riverboat. It was nice to be able to break the camera out and take photos of them too.

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First stop for us was Notre Dame cathedral. I must admit, it’s a stunning piece of architecture. Unfortunately, this was the first time we realised that Paris was really quite a bit too touristy. I remember I had to stop myself from collapsing with laughter every time I heard the inane statements and frustratingly annoying drawl of the American tourists walking behind us.

Though, the worst part must have been the camera flashes. It’s almost impossible to appreciate the building and the years of immensely hard work that would have been put into it, when every time you look at something, it’s doused in a split second of bright white light. You may find it a bit hypocritical of me to say that I would like to see them banned from a place such as this, especially as I took a boat load of photos while I was in there, but it’s true. You may also notice that on my photos, I didn’t use the flash once. Wasn’t bothered how blurry they came out. I simply respected the rights of other people around me to enjoy the building as it should be.

Therefore, I can see why Durham Cathedral banned cameras, and I stand with their agreement on this policy. I also retract any previous statements where I may have stated otherwise.

After the trip around there, it was then time to get some water, and a trip through the side streets in order to find a shop that actually looked like they’d stock something to drink. Eventually, I found somewhere. It looked like a proper dive, however, and this was confirmed by the fact that the water was manufactured in Greece, and was “sparkling”, though I couldn’t tell that by looking at the label. Bah. I hate sparkling water. On a hot summer day, it’s about as refreshing as a sand and razorblade sorbet.

Next stop was The Louvre, or at least the outside of it, as time was getting on, and there was no chance of being able to see most of of it, therefore we just stayed outside. As far as I was concerned there was plenty for me to photograph anyway.

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After we’d picked up some food and stocked up on more water (this time at €2.50 a bottle… ffs), we headed off down Le Jardin des Tuileries, towards the Arc De Triomphe. Now, at first it didn’t look like a particularly long walk. We could see it in the distance.

However, this was entirely deceptive. Turns out the short walk was actually two miles. Never mind, we made it. It is MUCH bigger than what I expected. Last year, in Berlin, you may remember we went to see the Brandenburg gate, and were shocked at how small it was, well this was HUGE.

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Of course, around the Arc De Triomphe is a comedy roundabout. Honestly, you could sit and watch this thing for hours, with all of the near misses. 12 different roads merge into one roundabout, which is roughly 4 or 5 lanes wide. There are no road markings. It is literally every man for himself. Oubviously, when this structure and the surrounding buildings were constructed, there wouldn’t have been any cars on the road.

Now this gives me an opportunity to explain a little about the traffic system in France, or at least Paris… there is *no* traffic system. Firstly, let me start off with traffic signals. Now, I’m sure you all remember your Green Cross code… look left, look right, wait for the green man. Well, you can forget it. Just forget everything you know. Over there, there’s no need to wait for the green man, because wether the lights are on red or not, they still go through them. If you happen to be obeying the green man, and actually crossing at that time, wish yourself luck, run like fuck and pray that you don’t end up splattered across the front of a Renault Twingo. I swear, I lost count of how many times one of the three of us almost ended up in a body bag because we thought that the red traffic light meant “stop”.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone in Paris is a bad driver, I’m just saying that everyone in Paris is a bad driver. OK, there’s bound to be one or two exceptions to the rule, but we found it hard to find a car without some type of dent or scratch in it.

Anyway, back to the Arc De Triomphe. There was a dimly lit subway which takes you from one side of the road, and onto the main building itself. We weren’t aware that you could get to the top of it until we got there. Awesome. The cost was €9. Again, we left this for another day.

After that, we began to head back to the hotel. It wasn’t too late by this time (about 4:30) so we walked it.

At exactly 5PM, we stumbled across the tunnel where Princess Di met her fate. Oddly, on the top of the tunnel is a replica of the flame from the Statue of Liberty. The top of the tunnel itself is covered in graffiti.

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After a walk that felt like a week, we ended up back at the hotel, but not before we watched some brass band from England do their best to re-create the Austin Powers theme. Seconds later, off we went to the shoppy.

I picked up only the bare essentials in this particular trip. Water, cherry coke and more bacon Bugles. Oh, and some apples. And possibly some fruit juice too. The “pièce de résistance”, however, came in the shape of beer. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called, but it came in a blue can and was 7.9%. the price? Something like €1.40 a can. I bought 4 of them.

Off we went, back to the hotel, again, and began to flick through the various pieces of complete garbage that was on the telly. Let me tell you that the French version of Countdown (i.e. the original one) isn’t really that good.

So, after a quick change of clothes, an’t a bit-o’Brut-slappy-chop-chops, we decided to check some of the local eateries. There was a vast selection where we were located, though it seemed most of them didn’t offer a wide selection of stuff. Well, not for me anyway, the annoyingly fussy eater I am. Again, the meals were expensive, but a bit more reasonable than the drinks. After knocking down a chicken brochette, while C+J had a cod steak, we left La Terrasse behind, and began to try and find a cheap place to have a drink. We kept on walking. And walking. eventually, through pure chance, we ended up back on the Champs-Élysées. Bugger. This was not going to be a cheap night at all. Down a side street, we found a place that was reasonable, and actually looked like a bar instead of a cafe.

We entered, and was shown to a table. Wait, I thought this was a pub? No. It’s just another expensive cafe that’s made to look like a bar. Growl.

And expensive it was. €7.50 each for a “pint” of 1664. (Note that in France, 1664 and Kroenenburg are two separate lagers), and thanks to the language barrier, it turned out that Chris actually ordered 5 instead of 3, therefore the cheap drink suddenly changed into a not so cheap €37.50… awesome. The beer wasn’t even that nice either.

So, we left, and set off on the journey back to the hotel. It was getting late by this point. We left the “pub” at about 11, and didn’t get back in the hotel until 11:45, though I did get a chance to see something cool – the Eiffel tower, doused in blue light, covered in sparkling lights.

By the time we got back to the hotel, my back teeth were floating. Absolutely desperate for a pee. It’s moments like this that you don’t wish you had a room on the third floor. As I pleaded for the lift to go faster, it only seemed to go slower. Luckily it reached its destination in time, and I remembered how to open the door without having to resort to brute force.

It was approaching midnight, so me and Chris headed off back to the Eiffel tower to see if we can catch the light display. Indeed we did, and I even got it on tape, as I gave Chris the camcorder while I tried to get jaunty angles of it.

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After that, we went back to the hotel and watched the tape of what I’d filmed. I then knocked back those cans I mentioned earlier and went to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a high, in more than one respect.